May 7, 2019 – KORi Wines is truly a family affair with very local roots. Kori Violini, for whom the brand is named, has spent her whole life in the Santa Lucia Highlands, attending school in Gonzales. Growing up, she was involved in 4H, and started a breeding project to breed and show her own hogs. She still continues to breed for the local 4H and FFA kids. After 4H, she ran the Jr. Livestock committee, Jr. Livestock Auction and was Livestock Superintendent for the Monterey County Fair.
Violini spent her college years at Cal Poly in SLO, where she majored in business and took viticulture classes. In 2007, she teamed up with her stepfather, Kirk Williams, a winegrower on River Road in the Santa Lucia Highlands and winemaker Sabrine Rodems, to make wine.
You know how this goes: a little wine, and then, a little more, and pretty soon, you have more than you and your friends can consume. For Violini, her dream of having a tasting room for her brand has finally come true. And her brother, Justin, who just returned home after living in New York, is now her Marketing and Club Manager for the KORi Wines brand.
Says Violini, “Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be in the family business so I guess I got my wish!”
It all began, ironically, over 20 years ago, with a grapefruit orchard. Kori tells us that Kirk planted his first vineyard, which was initially known as Fairview, but was subsequently renamed KW Vineyard, in 1998. It was the site of a citrus orchard at the intersection of River Road and Fairview Road, the same road that leads to Boekenoogen’s SLH vineyard and winery. Kirk’s grapefruit trees were ripped out in favor of grapevines: he planted mostly Pinot Noir and some Syrah. Nobody is complaining about the lack of grapefruit. Nearby lemon and avocado orchards remain. Violini tells us, “Kirk always likes to say that he was half right when he planted GRAPE fruit!”
With a beautiful looking grape harvest in 2007, Kirk approached Kori about making Pinot Noir, and as they say…
There was no doubt about who they wanted to make their wine: Sabrine Rodems of Wrath was the obvious choice. Says Kori, “Sabrine had been purchasing grapes from Kirk for a while, and he really loved her winemaking style, along with her down to earth personality. After I met her, we became fast friends: she is one of my favorite people!”
About that inaugural vintage, Kori recalls, “I remember pouring at my first event. It was nerve-wracking because it was such an unknown for us on what to expect. We started with Pinot. I have a Library of all of the wines except 2008 Pinot, which was very limited production. Kirk’s father Jim LOVED that vintage, so when we moved on to the 2010 Pinot, the rest of that wine went to Jim to enjoy with his friends at the country club.”
Violini made Pinot initially, then added Syrah in 2010. Knowing she needed a white, she made some Chardonnay from Kirk’s grapes in 2013. But she admits, “I’m a huge Sauv Blanc fan so in 2014 we purchased grapes from Michael Griva and for 2018 we went back there and will continue to source from him for future vintages. He grows some fantastic SB!”
Indeed, the 2018 Kori Sauvignon Blanc is juicy and plush, with aromas of lilacs, lychee and heady orange blossoms. It’s like a spring garden in your glass. Made from the musquée clone of Sauvignon Blanc, prized for its ebullient fragrance and texture, this is barrel-fermented, yielding sweet grapefruit, ripe pineapple upside down cake and a kiss of lime-coconut frosting.
When Violini first started out, she tried to sell the wine by herself, but quickly learned it is nigh impossible to move wine that way. She knew she needed a wine club and/or tasting room. When her son was born in 2014, the label and wine production took a back burner, but last year, it was time to ramp things up, so she started the hunt for a tasting room location.
“I was very fortunate to come across the space I did at the time I did,” says Violini. “It all happened much quicker and easier than I had expected. We opened with four of our wines and two more are to be released later this year or early next year. We have to let the wine decide that one for us! The four we are currently pouring our 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, 2018 Rosé of Pinot, 2014 Pinot Noir and 2017 San Saba Syrah. Future releases are 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2018 Blanc de Blancs.”
Don’t miss the outstanding 2018 Rosé, made of Clone 115 Pinot from KW Vineyard: it’s a beautiful shade of magenta, with oodles of ripe strawberry and raspberry flavors, and just the right touch of oak for mouthfeel.
She says the yet-to-be-released Cabernet hails from Alexander Valley, sourced through some of her Pinot contacts. The Chardonnay grapes for the 2018 Blanc de Blancs are from their Highland Ranch Vineyard here in the SLH. “We made the base wine at Wrath and it is now at Equinox (Santa Cruz) getting nice and bubbly. We are planning on a brut/extra brut style.”
Asked if there are any other whites in the works, Violini says, “Sabrine and I are currently trying to convince Kirk to plant an interesting white, so that is on my mind for the future. I’m also considering doing a Chardonnay in 2019.”
Whatever Kirk decides to plant or not, it’s a pretty good bet that Kori’s four-year-old son, will get to roam among the vineyards that surround their home. Seven years ago, Violini built a house on the ranch that contains Fairview and KW Vineyards, where she now lives with son, Easton. Perhaps he, too, will become part of the growing family business someday.
Head over to Kori’s Carmel-by-the-Sea tasting room on Mission Between Ocean and 7th, in the Court of the Fountains, on Saturday May 11, for her official grand opening. From 1—4pm, enjoy bites of Zio Brand Sausage, which are made with KORi wine by Ellis Almond, whose sister, Kate, has been Kori’s best friend since childhood. During the grand opening, tasting flights will be $10 and tasting fees will be waived with any bottle purchase.
For the entire week of May 6—12, each Club KorK signup will receive a KORi logo wine glass and corkscrew. Any purchases over $150 will receive a set of 2 K logo’d Riedel wine flutes. Both are available while supplies last.
Laura Ness is a longtime wine journalist, columnist and judge who contributes regularly to Edible Monterey Bay, Spirited, WineOh.Tv, Los Gatos Magazine and Wine Industry Network, and a variety of consumer publications. Her passion is telling stories about the intriguing characters who inhabit the fascinating world of wine and food.